Demos are considered a necessity to primarily get an agent since most clients don't search demos to find a specific need for a certain gig. If they do, that's insane and bad for us voice talents who can't put everything we do on a 1.5 min demo. Clients aren't visionary so if they are looking for a Suave French spy and you don't have it on your demo, they won't presume you can do it.
That said, since I often get talent sending me demos or links to theirs as a way to get into my talent pool, let me try to help with a few bullet points.
1. You could be a lot better with more potential than I hear on your demo. Demos can be self-limiting.
Or worse, they can turn someone off if done poorly AND if done well you better be able to deliver the goods instantly. You don't get rehearsal time and do overs in a session.
2. I can't tell how long it took you to perfect whatever voices or get your takes right nor how directable you are nor what kind of persona you have by listening to your demo.
3. If you took a class or two and spent substantial money which might have included getting a produced demo in the end, you may or may not be able to live up to your demo when faced with a real job. Better put, if you don't have good enough voice control or maybe you can't stay in character, or maybe you can do a voice but you can't act, or you aren't accurate cold reading copy.....maybe you should concentrate on perfecting and expanding your abilities before rushing out and slapping a demo on as many "desks" as you can.
4. Start your demo off with a bang. Catch attention in the first 5 secs. Don't go back and forth between two voices and try to do voices the industry wants. I go over this in coaching, but for now, just don't do impersonations that you label unless you are 100% spot on. Otherwise if your Elvis Presley voice produces an interesting character, play with that instead of saying "Thank you. Thank you very much," as a bad Elvis.
5. Keep your demo no longer than a minute and a half and if you can't supply totally different good choices to fill that time slot, don't try. Leave people wanting to hear more instead of them thinking, "Yeah yeah, heard that voice already.,"
6. If you're a guy and don't sound like Sam Elliot, don't put western cowboy voices on your demo and if you're a girl, forget being another one of the hundreds doing a Wicked Witch "I'll get you and you're little dog too." Try to do something different, or if it's one of the latter, or even a pirate, say something funny and clever. If you make a client chuckle while listening you get bonus points and they'll think you're fun to work with.
7. Unsolicited demos sent to anyone, especially agents, seldom get listened to, and if all you do is email someone saying "go to my link. I'd love to be part of your talent pool," that treats your recipient like cheap spam and they'll be thinking, "The nerve...like I have nothing better to do than go to your site, when you obviously didn't do anything to personalize your email or find out anything about what makes me or my agency tick."
THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN USUALLY GET AN AGENT TO LISTEN TO YOUR DEMO IS TO IF YOU HAVE A BUDDY WHO IS ALREADY REPPED BY THAT AGENT INTRODUCE YOU WITH PLENTY OF KUDOS.
8. PRODUCTION VALUE CAN MATTER WITH A DEMO. DON'T HAVE TO PAY TOP DOLLAR TO GET AN ENGINEER TO DO IT FOR YOU, IF YOU KNOW HOW TO CUT AND PASTE BACKGROUND MUSIC OR JUST A TASTE OF DIFFERENT SOUND BEHIND EACH OF YOUR CLIPS. MAKES IT SOUND LIKE IT WAS TAKEN FROM AN ACTUAL PRODUCTION INSTEAD OF YOU SITTING IN FRONT OF YOUR MIC AT HOME. IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE MUSIC, LEAVE IT OFF. BY PUTTING ONE TRACK UNDER ALL YOUR CHANGE-UPS it PROVES once again, it's not from a perceived production.
9. COMMERCIALS--Always do national tag lines or spots. Nothing sounding local with a city or local location mentioned. If your mic sounds decent and you put a bit of music behind "Today shop at Sears," no one will know you didn't actually do that spot.
10. Do as many separate demos as you want by category. Commercials, Promos, Animation and characters, Game Demo, IVR, Tutorial, Narrative & Documentary, Dialects, Audio Books. Keep them short and sensational rather than long and mediocre.
11. Try not to tell a story like Once upon a time there was this Frog, "Ribbit Ribbit" who met a fairy, "Goodness me, a frog!"....unless it's for an audio book demo. For character demos, slap totally different sounding stuff together in 5-10 sec increments and if you don't have a lot of characters, make a 30 sec demo.
12. I'm happy to go over more of this in detail and offer private coaching at a very reasonable cost with a money back guarantee. But the above info is worth a lot more than any price tag, so I hope it helps. Best of luck.
Most people say; have a pro do it and keep it a a min to a min.5 and leave it at that or they include a horror story of their self made demo to show why you NEED them to do your demo for you at a reduced cost. I have as yet to do my pro demo mainly because of cost restraints. But you have given a wealth of info here that makes me breath better about that. It doesn't have to cost a lot if the one doing it is good, knows what they are doing and will work with the one having it done. Plus if we know how to piece some light music in the background and have a decent to really good mic; we can start with that to begin with till we can get better quality.
Thanks for this info, I feel like I can get started now.
that's not what he said. "keep it to a min to a min.5" was an odd way to write it, but he said keep it to a minute to a minute-five, or 1.0 to 1.5 minutes, or 60-90 seconds.
Good stuff on this page, saved!
Wise words as always. Thanks for your insight.
Hi Lani - wow! thank you so much for confirming what I tell my voiceover students constantly - the demo should represent what you can do, accurately and realistically. I suggest they needlepoint a pillow: "make no demo before its time" - which means you can do the job , not just the audition. A bad demo is a waste of your time. A falsely good one is a waste of your client's time!
I had two sessions this week where I was booked straight off a demo. It does happen.
And I agree with you that the voice actor MUST be able to live up to the demo. You can't just take a few classes then pay a lot of money to have a demo producer make you sound good, only to have a poor performance at session time. It wastes everyone's time and careens your career off into a ditch. Don't make a demo until you've got some decent skills. A good coach can help you get there.
Thank you for this candid, straight information. I am in the process of updating my demo and securing more regional agents so once again...there are no accidents. Thank you so much for your insight and generosity! My Best, Larry Hudson
I've been doing voiceovers since the 60's, and have been a studio engineer for 20+ years... helping dozens of other talent build their demos. Here's what I recommend:
Whenever you do a paying job, ask for a copy of the finished product... even if you have to pay a dub fee, The best demos are constructed of actual productions from a variety of studios, engineers, microphones, etc. Any categories you are good at, but don't have examples, can be built from scratch and mixed in amongst the other recordings. If a demo sounds like all the cuts were recorded at the same place at the same time with the same equipment and processing, it will not sound "genuine".
If you're too new to have any legitimate copies of your work, try to have a professional record you in several different, short sessions on different days, using a variety of microphones and signal processing. Select music from several different libraries, and use ambient sounds or no background at all on some takes. Mix it up, and keep it moving... no more than 15 sec. clips, with greatly diverse styles, in juxtaposition, to emphasize versatility. Don't mix character styles with announcer styles... do that with separate demos. And make sure that your demo shows what you are able to bring to a session, on command, every time! Above all, be yourself... not somebody you are trying to imitate. Nobody does "you" better than you.
A lot of great advice there, but I would like to make another point. I am a great writer and most spots or even game dialogue I've done in actual jobs ...really has terrible writing. I often rewrite for free when given permission . I did a national Target spot and asked for a dub and paid $25. It was terrible sound quality and totally useless. Which is why I suggest never bothering your client for a dub or a copy of something you did. Most game developers don't even give us copies of games anymore and most deal with so many talents, it's a royal pain in the ass to accommodate giving samples of work to any and every talent that asks.
So I tell talent to recreate what you may have done, voice-wise ...at home. Games end up down sampling your voice so much the quality would be much better in a good home studio. Your point, which is shared by Bob Bergen, about not recording demo clips using the same mic...is ok but I beg to differ. A change of music or a sound effect or two and the talent being able to sound like a different character, either in tone or acting style is more than enough to show versatility. If a talent is that mediocre or similar in all his deliveries he or she should not put similar tracks on the same demo anyway. Changing the mic or recording on a different day seems like quite a feeble band-aid for what should be a more versatile talent. Most people listening to your demos like agents, are not sophisticated enough to know if you did the real Budweiser commercial, nor do they care, as you have to land specific auditions with different scripts anyway.
Many years ago,. an engineer told me "If I ever hear someone faking a Budwieser commercial, I take their demo and throw it as hard as I can against the wall." I took that advice and regretted it ever since. I am a casting director, I know other casting directors, agents, clients around the world. Everything is just to show versatility and professionalism. Don't worry about the possibly perceived fake crap. Balls to the wall. Do it to it.
Get yourself out there....if you have the chops. And if not......maybe you and I should talk. :)
Balls to the wall.. heh, I like that.
Hey Lani, just quickly now, poor Ron up top there is probably running for the hills. I also read "5 mins" initially, in reference to the demo length, but he is actually saying 1.5mins...& just supporting what you said. So its not really BS & I feel like I want to give him a big hug... :-(
One thing that really gets on my tit though, is the deluded "British" accent done by someone from Atlanta for instance, & the client that thinks it sounds ok!! Yup, on the Sam Elliot tip, if you can't realistically do the Keira Knightly, *don't* even try it. An example I saw/heard was a certain tupperware-style US makeup brand - so awful it was funny.
Oh, & totally agree with the copywriting point - some eyebrow raising stuff out there!
Thanks; I feel the love!
I didn't realize it would appear as 5mins when I typed it :-O
Thanks for pointing it out.